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New Scotland Archives The Altamont Enterprise, April 22, 2010
By Saranac Hale Spencer
VOORHEESVILLE Having challenged two incumbents in the last election, Justin Brusgul, 53, is making his second run for a seat on the school board because people want to see changes in the district, he said.
Board members, as elected representatives, are answerable to the community, he said, but their purpose is to give the best education possible to students. The students are the most important part of the formula, he said.
In discussing the recently proposed $22 million budget, Brusgul put the issue in a larger context, including the following year’s budget. With the onset of the recession in 2008, Governor David Paterson made drastic cuts in state aid to schools, but the blow was softened when federal stimulus money was dedicated to filling many of those gaps. That money was available for only two years, which is why next year is referred to as the cliff year, when schools won’t have the stimulus funds to make up for lost state aid.
Brusgul acknowledged the effort that workers at all levels in the district put in to form the currently proposed budget, but he thinks that more attention could have been made to find places to reduce the budget now to deflect some of the pressure from the following year’s budget.
When pressed to name places that he would cut, Brusgul named the transportation department since it could find savings in energy conservation programs.
“The current issue is revenue, but the core issue is spending,” he said when asked about handling the coming budget. People often say that shortfalls in revenue, like state aid, are the problem, he explained, but the problem is the spending, which should be more targeted and planned. The district should look at what programs work and add up the cost rather than using the previous year’s budget as a blueprint.
The crop of new administrators in the district are encouraging, Brusgul said. They bring new ideas and approaches to the district’s three schools. “They all seem to be motivated,” he said.
Lengthening the kindergarten day isn’t educationally necessary, he said, and it’s too expensive.
What Brusgul sees as an area for improvement is also one of the things he most hopes to accomplish on the board improving the district’s communication with the public and generally including members of the community more.
Brusgul, a private-practice lawyer, has a “personal, vested interest” in the school district, he said, since his daughter attends the middle school.
Basically, he said, “You need to do the common-sense thing to make education better. It’s not just money.”